Chapter 11: The Winter Boar (Niomir)

The wind howled relentlessly as Niomir crept his way forward. He crossed a solid torrent, its icy surface broken by the boar’s pass. The trail led straight to a line of shrubs and vanished through it. He stared at it unmoving, waiting for the wind to die down so he could listen if the boar was behind the cover.

Finally, the wind quieted down. He heard nothing but the faint creak of branches overhead. The boar must’ve passed through and moved on.

And then he heard a sniffing sound in the shrubs in front of him. A shiver went up his spine but he forced himself to put it out of his mind and focus entirely on the task at hand. He lowered the killing point of the spear to the front, crept slowly on. The sniffing sound continued.

It knows I’m here. It has to know I’m here. It won’t charge unless it feels threatened. I don’t want it to charge but it has to, otherwise I cannot kill it.

One more step.

A twig snapped underfoot.

The sniffing stopped. Niomir froze mid-stride, the light spear pointed at the source of the sound. The whole forest seemed to hold its breath. Even the wind was absent.

The boar exploded from the shrub with an ear-rendering scream, a mass of muscle and fur and mud. It happened too quickly for Niomir to be afraid. A part of his mind noticed that the boar was not coming at him from the front but slightly from the side. He pivoted the killing point instinctively just before the boar reached him.

It felt like being hit by a boulder. The impact pushed all air from his lungs and took him off his feet. His arms screamed with pain, sudden and sharp. Fingers brushed against coarse fur, rough as tree bark. His head snapped back, the neck protesting at the ordeal. The shock was paralyzing and for a moment he lay face up in the dirt, his head ringing, lungs empty, struggling to inhale.

The boar!

Niomir struggled to get up, certain that the beast would be upon him in an instant.

The monster lay motionless at an arm’s length. Nimmian’s spear was lodged underneath the beast’s maw. The killing point tore through the back of its head.

A perfect thrust.

For a long moment, Niomir could not comprehend what had happened. He was chilled to the bone, covered in mud and exhausted. A moment before, he was being attacked by a lethal beast. Now there was no beast in sight. Just a huge mass of meat, draped in still warm fur.

Niomir dragged himself closer to his kill. His legs were exhausted and there was that irksome throb in his right arm that suggested at least one bone was cracked.

“I thank you…” he barely managed, “…spirits of the Earth and Sky… for this bounty.” He brushed his fingers against one of the boar’s tusks. He felt the sharp edge of the huge tooth. “I thank you too, brother…, for not turning me into a meal of your own.”

He did not wait for the wind to answer his prayer. He collapsed to the ground, too tired to move.

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